City life is fast-paced. The average urban dweller drives to office, making a few important calls on the way; every second counts. Works at his desk, typing away furiously at his computer for around 10 hours, drives over to the gym, and a few hours later, collapses in his bed, too tired to move a limb. And it all begins again the next morning. While we city people thrive on the feeling of being busy, we forget to stop and smell the flowers on the way. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back and learn to revel in the quieter aspects of life in the Spiti valley that no concrete jungle can offer.
What’s the brouhaha all about?
Being one of the most sparsely populated regions in India, the district of Lahaul-Spiti in Himachal Pradesh most certainly offers the worn-out metropolitan respite. Thankfully, it doesn’t share the rest of India’s tropical climate, and its mountainous terrain quite literally sets it apart from the other regions of the country.
Spiti, meaning “The Middle Land” is so named by virtue of being situated between Tibet and Himachal Pradesh. The valley, with a predominantly Buddhist population, shares cultural similarities with Tibet, which is easily visible through the colourful prayer flags dancing in the breeze. The sparkling blue Spiti River adds a dash of colour to the otherwise mostly barren and brown region.
What to look out for?
Since the Rohtang pass has recently been rendered inaccessible owing to restrictions imposed by the National Green Tribunal, this is your chance to discover another pass: the Kunzum pass, one of the highest motorable passes in the Kunzum range. Enter Spiti valley from the Kunzum pass, a breathtaking sheet of pure whiteness. If you’re interested, you could even trek 14 km to the Chandra Tal (the Moon Lake) from here. Enjoy the view of the Bara Shigri glacier, the largest glacier in Himachal Pradesh. For the spiritually-inclined, there are a few monasteries you could visit, namely the Ki and Tabo monasteries. The latter is said to be the oldest monastery, and has preserved its serene state since 996 A.D.
What about food cravings?
You can see the cultural similarities to Tibet in the cuisine. Nothing could be more perfect than a bowl of steaming Thukpa (noodle soup) or a plate of momos. And although the typically Tibetan butter tea is an acquired taste for most, it’s certainly worth a try – who thought tea could have salt instead of sugar!
How do I get there?
You can take a train or flight to Shimla (going from Manali is not advisable as Rohtang is inaccessible at present) and from there, you will have to hire an SUV or take a bus to the Spiti valley via Rekong Peo.
And what about the budget?
I won’t lie, it can get a bit steep, but you can opt for home stays or staying at guest houses if you don’t want to spend too much on hotels.
Any travel tips?
Take your time to get acclimatised. Spiti is at a height of 12,500 feet above sea level and the higher you go, the thinner the air gets. It is also inaccessible for nearly 6 months, so the best time to visit would be between June and October. Carry warm clothes. If you’re prone to motion sickness, make sure you’ve stocked up on your medicines. Also, leave your laptop and iPod behind, slow down, and enjoy the scenery. Because, as I mentioned earlier, every second counts.